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Professor Rebecca Willis

Professor in Practice

Rebecca Willis

LEC Building



Research overview

I focus on environment, climate and energy policy and politics.

Current Research

My work focuses on environment, climate and energy policy. In a collaboration between Lancaster University and Green Alliance, from 2014-18, I investigated how politicians understand and respond to climate change. The research looks at how UK Members of Parliament understand what climate change means for their role at the national level and in their constituencies, and how to best support them in taking action. In 2019, I was appointed as an Expert Lead to Climate Assembly UK, the first national Citizens' Assembly on Climate Change, established by six parliamentary select committees in the House of Commons.

In my work on energy policy, I focus on the role of individuals within energy systems. In 2006, I published Grid 2.0: The next generation, charting how energy innovations, including distributed generation and ICT-enabled applications, implied a radically different role for the energy consumer, and required a different business and regulatory strategy. This publication, over ten years ago, was an early statement of what is now a very widely-held view. Since then, my research has included a profile of consumer-oriented low-carbon innovations (The Disrupters, published in 2007 by Nesta and Demos); several investigations into community ownership models for energy, including work for the British Academy (2016), Co-operatives UK (2011& 2015), the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and private energy developer Airvolution (unpublished consultancy); and Demanding Less, a study examining ways to integrate energy demand issues into mainstream energy policy (2011, with Prof Nick Eyre). I also act as an advisor to the Lake District National Park, where I helped to establish the UK’s first local carbon budget.

I am a Trustee of the New Economics Foundation and an adviser to the National Lottery’s Climate Action Fund. From 2015-2019 I was a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of UKRI’s Energy Programme, and from 2011-15 a Council Member of the Natural Environment Research Council. Previously I was Vice-Chair of the UK Sustainable Development Commission, advising the Prime Minister and First Ministers of the devolved administrations.

I am an Associate of the think tank Green Alliance and from 2001-4 was Green Alliance’s Director. Previously, I spent two years as a policy adviser at the European Parliament in Brussels, specialising in international environmental issues.

Career Details

Research Fellow, Lancaster University (2014-2018)

Professor in Practice, Lancaster University (2019-ongoing)


  • Research Fellow: Supporting local officers and politicians in three UK cities to implement rapid climate action 2019-
  • ESRC-funded PhD: How Members of Parliament understand and respond to climate change. CASE Studentship, with Lancaster University and Green Alliance. Awarded October 2018.
  • Research Associate: NERC-funded project Assessing mitigation deterrence effects of greenhouse gas removal techniques (PI Dr Nils Markusson); responsibility for focus groups and engagement methodologies


  • Tutor on LEC undergraduate module, Energy: Controversies and Decision-making
  • Lecturer and co-tutor, LEC interdisciplinary MSc module Climate Change and Society
  • Convenor of Research Training Programme module: Introduction to Engaging with Government and Politics
  • Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Leadership and engagement:

  • Member of policy engagement working group established by the Vice-Chancellor’s office
  • Member of Lancaster University Brexit Panel, convening expertise from across the University

Independent consultancy, 2004-2017

  • Climate Change Leadership Programme, Green Alliance: Founder and manager of this development programme for Members of Parliament. Backed by three main political parties in the UK; worked with over 100 MPs to date
  • Energy research:
  • Cultures of Community Energy: Research project for the British Academy (2015-16)
  • Research and advocacy for Co-operatives UK, including two research publications, profiling the sector and putting forward policy proposals
  • Research into public and community engagement in energy for private clients including Airvolution (renewable energy developer) and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation (philanthropic funders)Vice-chair of the Government Shared Ownership Taskforce (2014-15)
  • Research projects for Green Alliance, including publication of Demanding Less (2011); Grid 2.0 (2007); Establishment of Energy Entrepreneurs Network (2002-4)
  • The Low-carbon Lake District initiative: Advising the Lake District National Park Authority on its strategic response to climate change, including establishment of the UK’s first consumption-based local carbon budget

 2004-2011: Vice-Chair, Sustainable Development Commission

The UK Government’s independent advisory body on sustainable development, reporting to the Prime Minister and the First Ministers of the devolved administrations

 2001 – 2004: Director, Green Alliance

1998 – 2001: Head of Policy, Green Alliance

1997 - 1998: Policy Adviser, European Parliament, Brussels 

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